Health care examined
ST. PAUL - It's not that Minnesota legislators don't support the concept of ensuring all Minnesotans receive health-care coverage - most do.
But like so many issues debated at the Capitol, the biggest chasms between lawmakers emerge when it comes to dollars and cents.
Wednesday proved that health care is no different.
At a Senate health committee meeting, lawmakers considered a bill that would lay the groundwork for universal health care in Minnesota and another that aims to make comprehensive and affordable coverage a basic right under the state Constitution.
The issue of universal health-care is an ongoing political struggle between Democrats - who control both chambers in the Legislature - and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who opposes a government-run system.
The legislation doesn't necessarily call for a government-funded system, the bill's author, Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, noted, although he supports one.
"I actually think that could be the best way to go," said Marty, who chairs the committee.
But since that approach is a shoo-in for a Pawlenty veto stamp, Marty is pushing the universal coverage bill, which doesn't assign direct authority to the state or otherwise.
Instead, the bill calls for the health commissioner to lead a group to design a universal health-care system and propose it to the Legislature in a year.
A complementary bill creates a mechanism to put that commitment into effect - an idea Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, backs.
"It will hold our feet to the fire," he said of the constitutional amendment.
Longaecker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org